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Tikkun Olam: for Sasha, Malia, Osher, the children of Palestine, the Joshua Generation

March 22, 2013

Speaking in Jerusalem yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama joked:  “Now, I know that in Israel’s vibrant democracy, every word, every gesture is carefully scrutinized.”  He surely understands how his every word is going to be scrutinized. Here I only want to highlight what he did, to note who he repeatedly centers in “tikkun olam“:

“my daughters” [Malia and Sasha] and “your daughters or sons.”

Here are a few gestures he made:

Just a few days from now, Jews here in Israel and around the world will sit with family and friends at the Seder table, and celebrate with songs, wine and symbolic foods.  After enjoying Seders with family and friends in Chicago and on the campaign trail, I’m proud that I’ve now brought this tradition into the White House.  (Applause.)  I did so because I wanted my daughters to experience the Haggadah, and the story at the center of Passover that makes this time of year so powerful.

As Dr. Martin Luther King said on the day before he was killed, “I may not get there with you.  But I want you to know that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”  (Applause.)  So just as Joshua carried on after Moses, the work goes on for all of you, the Joshua Generation, for justice and dignity; for opportunity and freedom.

Here’s what I think about when I consider these issues.  When I consider Israel’s security, I think about children like Osher Twito, who I met in Sderot — (applause) — children the same age as my own daughters who went to bed at night fearful that a rocket would land in their bedroom simply because of who they are and where they live.  (Applause.)

I’m going off script here for a second, but before I came here, I met with a group of young Palestinians from the age of 15 to 22.  And talking to them, they weren’t that different from my daughters.  They weren’t that different from your daughters or sons.  I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those kids, they’d say, I want these kids to succeed; I want them to prosper.  (Applause.)  I want them to have opportunities just like my kids do.  I believe that’s what Israeli parents would want for these kids if they had a chance to listen to them and talk to them.  (Applause.)  I believe that.

And as the President of a country that you can count on as your greatest friend — (applause) — I am confident that you can help us find the promise in the days that lie ahead.  And as a man who’s been inspired in my own life by that timeless calling within the Jewish experience — tikkun olam — (applause) — I am hopeful that we can draw upon what’s best in ourselves to meet the challenges that will come; to win the battles for peace in the wake of so much war; and to do the work of repairing this world.  (Applause.)  That’s your job.  That’s my job.  That’s the task of all of us.

Read (and scrutinize) the rest here.

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